Talking Movies: Influence, The Kingmaker and King of the Cruise

Spling reviews Influence, The Kingmaker and King of the Cruise as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about three documentaries all part of the upcoming Encounters Documentary film festival.

Starting off with…


Influence explores the dark art of geopolitical spin-doctoring.

Directors: Diana Neille, Richard Poplak

Features: Tim Bell, Phumzile van Damme and Marianne Thamm

– Stoking racial division to distract citizens from the rot of corruption for 100,000 Pounds per month, the British firm ‘Bell Pottinger’ was named and shamed after a group of investigative journalists broke the Gupta Leaks story.
– Influence is an incisive rise and fall documentary, which rewinds the story of Bell Pottinger to its origins.
– Founded by Lord Tim Bell, who serves as the documentary’s primary subject, he unpacks some of his darkest PR secrets candidly as if broadcasting from a confessional like a disgraced former MI:6 operative – treating every insidious global intervention as a job.
– Starting in advertising and drawing acclaim for his instrumental involvement in Margaret Thatcher’s election campaign victories, he was regarded as her “favourite spindoctor and confidante”.
– While other documentaries and films such as The Great Hack, After Truth, How to Steal A Country and Brexit: The Uncivil War splayed open the fake news and weaponised PR debate, Influence goes deeper.
– Leaning on Bell’s testimony, the meticulous documentary incorporates a few of his exploits as if sampling a buffet, each of which could have been standalone documentaries.
– Comprehending his rise to power and detailing his eventual fall, it’s a dizzying, eye-opening, powerful and long overdue exposé.
– This cautionary and timely film offers evidence to validate the post-truth era and hopefully provoke the kind of actions and discussions to unlock and protect against it.
– There clearly needs to be more accountability, integrity, transparency and watchdog agencies when it comes to monitoring public relations and the clients who enable them.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to…


An extraordinary look into the political career of Imelda Marcos, whose questionable sense of reality divided a nation.

Writer-Director: Lauren Greenfield

Features: Imelda Marcos, Etta Rosales and Ferdinand Marcos

– The history of the Philippines has been rocky as they moved from a dictatorship to a democracy.
– The Marcos family has been a dominant political force, from consecration to abdication with many question marks over the country’s wealth that was stolen and buried by Imelda Marcos.
– While the flamboyant, influential and self-appointed matriarch has returned to her home country, the Marcos name still has a degree of power as evidenced by her re-entry into the political domain, using her husband’s embalmed body and son as political pawns.
– The eye-opening documentary revisits the history of the country, the Marcos dynasty, controversial decisions and the eight years of martial law.
– This is a fascinating account of Imelda’s rise and fall as the political icon seems to be working behind-the-scenes to rise again vicariously through her son, Bong Bong.
– Self-deluded and denying all accusations, yet leveraging the wealth to fund campaigns that would see her son return to power, the corruption runs deep.
– A sprawling documentary, the Greenfield manages to get full access to Marcos and extensive footage around Bong Bong’s attempt to reclaim the Marcos name amid jeers of “pay back the money”.
– Having seemingly masterminded the election of their current president, there’s a fear that the country will be submerged into a dictatorship once again.
– Touring her opulent residence, her excessive wardrobe and regal taste, there’s a hint of satire beneath it all yet through interviews with locals and activists, the unimaginable seems to be taking its toll on their uncertain future under a President often compared with Trump.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

And finally…


A portrait of rich and flamboyant Scottish baron Ronald Busch Reisinger as he looks for everything affluence can’t buy on one of his frequent luxury sea cruises.

Director: Sophie Dros

Features: Ronald Busch Reisinger

– What would you do if you had all the money in the world?
– One Scottish gentleman, whose family fortune meant he never had to work a day in his life, resorting to a life of luxury, travel and limitless indulgence.
– As a baron, whose long name and extraordinary tales make him teeter on the knife’s edge of real deal and charlatan, this is his story.
– Joining him for one of his lavish ocean cruiser experiences, the documentarians follow his journey and interactions with other passengers and staff.
– A character portrait, in which the subject expounds on his fortunate situation, his food addiction and agism, there’s a melancholy at its core.
– On an ocean cruise by himself, knowing his second wife has married him just for the money and coasting on being interesting, there’s a sad irony at play.
– Contrasting his material wealth and hollow fortune with the staff, who seem much happier altogether, it gives you a taste of the cruise liner experience and a window into the lifestyle of a man who has everything and nothing.
– Getting an all access pass, there are a genuine moments of surprise, delight and just as many that will have you cringe.
– While the cruise liner has a final destination, the documentary meanders its way without a clear narrative structure beyond simply taking a trip with an absolute character.
– A strange tension lies beneath the surface of things with so many extreme contrasts between the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the healthy and the unhealthy, all of which make it a thought-provoking and rather surreal misadventure.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

INFLUENCE… a slick, explosive, entertaining and timely rise and fall documentary on geopolitical weaponised public relations… An excellent 8!

THE KINGMAKER… a cautionary, comprehensive and eye-opening character study documentary about the power of memory and self-delusion… An excellent 8!

THE KING OF CRUISE… while a little shaggy, this curious and surreal character portrait documentary is melancholic and thought-provoking… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!